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Self-Love – Is It Really What I See Online?

Mag. Pth. Melisza Neckel is a Systematic Family Psychotherapist. She believes psycho-education is an essential first step in acquiring tools, resources and skills to manage your emotional experience. From there, the possibilities are endless.

Executive Contributor Melisza Neckel

When you open your Instagram, TikTok, or any other social media platform, you are bombarded with content telling you to love yourself. Self-love from a psychological perspective is much broader than the generalized content that you see on your screen every day. It’s the short, quick tips and tricks, which although valuable at times, are also hugely limiting. This version of pop psychology tends to promise easy solutions to difficult problems. Over-simplification can set off unrealistic expectations and allow for self-blame rather than self-love.

Smiling beautiful woman hugging self

This article is going to give you a deeper understanding of self-love and what “real” self-care is all about.


Each person is unique

To start understanding self-love, the most essential foundation is understanding that you are unique! How you love yourself and how to better love yourself needs to be tailored to you, reflecting your unique needs and wishes.


You are the expert in your own life

Although social media allows for inspiration around ways to self-love, you are your own best teacher. While one technique might work for others, it might not work for you. This is not your fault or because something is wrong with you, but rather an indicator that you are not finding what works best for your unique self. When we attempt techniques that don’t work, it can be disappointing and de-motivate us. It’s important to celebrate these attempts and not only celebrate and or reward positive results. When we reward ourselves for these attempts, we create motivation and energy to continue trying various options until we find what works for us.


Self-love categories

The four categories are; self-awareness, self-esteem, self-worth, and self-care. By knowing and reflecting on what makes up self-love, you can break it down into smaller manageable categories, assisting you to see yourself as a whole. This allows you to work on each category uniquely. To have more stable and healthier levels of self-love, we need to balance and or align with these four categories. Let’s explore these categories together.


As a psychotherapist, I always tell my clients everything starts with awareness. It is the first step to any sort of change.


Self-awareness is divided into two parts, internal and external. Internal self-awareness is how we perceive ourselves, such as our values, emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and our environment. Write down, how you would describe yourself, your values, strengths, and weaknesses. External self-awareness is about our ability to understand how others see us. It requires you to gather insights from the world around you. A great way to discover more about your level of external awareness is to ask a few people in your life that you trust, how they perceive you. How would they describe you?


Self-esteem is what we think, feel, and believe about ourselves. A useful exercise would be to ask yourself the following questions: what do I think, feel, and believe about myself? Beliefs are some of the most crucial influencers in our lives. Many of these beliefs are formed through our lived experience, and often in childhood. For example, believing “I am not worthy of love.”, “It’s my fault.”, “I am not good enough.” etc.


Self-worth is recognizing that I am greater than what I think, feel, or believe about myself. It is a deep knowing that I am of value, that I am loveable and necessary to this life. I add value to this world and others by existing.


Self-care is about giving attention to one’s own physical and psychological well-being and or health. It is anything that we intentionally and deliberately do to enhance our well-being. One of the most important deeper psychological understandings about self-care is that it is anything and everything we refrain from doing, to protect and care for ourselves. For example, canceling plans, practicing boundaries, and being honest with others, and ourselves. Another example is not buying the thing we want or see on social media because we know that we cannot afford it. Impulsive buying can have short-term benefits and long-term disadvantages. Self-care is an internal, conscious, decision-making process.


It is important to approach your self-care with compassion rather than criticism. You could create a list of to-dos for self-care and check off the tasks one by one, however, that is missing the essence of self-care. It is something we embody not something we accomplish. Accomplishments are more related to self-esteem. True self-care is the moment you manage to set boundaries with a family member, friend, or colleague. It is the feeling of inner peace by doing what is best for you. This does not mean we reject others, but rather that we set the standards in our relationships, that even though I am giving my best, I am still taking care of myself. Deciding to drink less alcohol, say yes less often, cancel or reschedule something I do not feel like doing, and the choice to listen to what my body is telling me. This is true/real self-care. 


Playfulness and experimenting are your superpower

In systemic therapy, we promote playfulness and experimentation when managing difficult situations, feelings, or thoughts. This means we need to approach our self-love with the same attitude. How can you make your self-awareness, self-esteem, self-worth, and self-care more fun?


With self-care as the focus, a fun and playful way to build more self-care in your life, is to create a ladder. Grab some colorful pens and paper. Draw a ladder. The first step on the ladder starts with simpler easier self-care acts such as taking a bath, a skincare routine, or movie nights. The next step on the ladder is switching off the cell phone and canceling a social event. The next step, the top of the ladder, is refraining from doing things you know aren’t good for you, such as self-blame and negative self-talk. One of the most common things I witness clients struggling with in self-care is how they deal with making mistakes. For example, they make a mistake, and their immediate thought is “I’m stupid” or “I never get things right”. Self-care would be to interrupt these thoughts or inner critics and replace them with compassion. Mistakes allow for learning, that it’s okay to make mistakes, that it was not intentional and now I know better for the next time.


At the core of mental health lies flexibility

Being rigid with your self-love and self-care is unhealthy. You need to experiment and make mistakes so that it becomes clear what best works for you. Be playful and creative with yourself, and give everything a try, until you find the techniques that work best for you. When we understand self-care in its deeper psychological form, we can influence all four categories of self-love. When we practice self-care, we think, feel, and believe more positive things about ourselves, which directly affects our self-esteem. When we practice self-care, our self-worth grows and becomes clearer. The journey of self-care increases our level of internal and external self-awareness.


You managed to get to the end of this article, which tells me you are strong and willing enough to move forward. Why not go back into the article and choose a few things that suit you, which might start you on a new journey of self-love.


Melisza Neckel, Systemic Family Psychotherapist

Mag. Pth. Melisza Neckel is a Systematic Family Psychotherapist. Her professional journey started in the early 2000s in her homeland of South Africa, initially in community work and later expanding into crisis intervention, and trauma assistance for victims of crime at various police stations. Since then, she has obtained multiple degrees in psychology and psychotherapy from South African and European universities. Over the last decade, she has embraced clients, spanning various nationalities, cultures and circumstances, providing psychotherapy, face-to-face and online. Since 2019, she runs her private practice “Room of Requirement Therapy” with a specific emphasis on trauma treatment in Vienna, Austria.



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